Listening to the media we would have thought we were entering a new era. Martin McGuinness was prepared to shake hands with the Queen! He would never have done that a year ago and who would have thought we were ever going to witness such an event?
When Sinn Fein makes decisions that appear to mark a change in attitude and direction, one should first try to understand where it fits into their strategy and wait to see what happens after the so-called ‘historic event’.
There is no doubt that Martin McGuiness was an IRA member, although he denies ever having been IRA Chief of Staff and would regard the charge as a compliment (Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston). Has the leopard changed his spots or has he been tamed into moving from terrorism to democracy? Are we to be so naïve as to believe that unrepentant terrorists have gone through a genuine conversion, that could lead them to embrace democracy and deny their involvement in a violent past?
The reality is that according to Mr McGuinness we are still in a ‘peace process’. This has now been going on since 1994: eighteen years later Northern Ireland remains entangled in a process of which the end is not yet in sight. If peace had been declared, public order would have been restored and the life of the nation would have moved on. Nothing of the sort has happened in Northern Ireland because it has never been a war but a terrorist campaign waged by a proscribed organisation against the State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The ‘peace process’ has been designed to suit the purpose of those who were carrying out a terrorist campaign, so as to enable them to come to power and in so doing pursue their political aim of a united Ireland.
The handshake with the Monarch was presented as a means of reaching out to Unionists so as to bring them closer to accepting the idea of creating a united Ireland. It was meant to “give unionists a glimpse of what a re-united Ireland would look like” said Mr McGuinness. The following day, the former IRA godfather, who appeared so welcoming, kind and jovial with the Queen, launched a scathing attack in Westminster against the British Government, requesting them to do more to serve the interests of Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland.
Yes, the context may to some extent have changed, but the intent of the heart of Republicans like Martin McGuinness is still the same. As long as the ‘peace process’ delivers progress towards a politically united Ireland, terrorist-related politicians are satisfied. When it stops serving their purpose they find ways to reactivate it to their advantage, claiming that the British Government should do more to surrender to their never-ending demands. For Sinn Fein/IRA, shaking hands with the Queen was just a means to an end, not the natural outcome of genuine repentance coupled with forgiveness and delivering lasting peace.